The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell to 104.7, 2.9 points below February’s reading. February’s report was the second highest reading in the 45-year history of the index, while March was the lowest since October 2017. Two of the ten index components rose in March, while eight declined. Twenty-eight percent of business owners surveyed said the next three months was a good time to expand, unchanged from last month’s reading.
Reported job creation fell three points, as 53% of businesses reported hiring or trying to hire, the highest level since 2006. However, 47% reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Twenty-one percent of employers surveyed cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their top business problem. A seasonally adjusted net 20% of owners plan to create new jobs, up two points from last month.
Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting better business conditions decreased eleven points to 32%. The percent of owners reporting higher sales in the past three months compared to the prior three months was a net 8%, unchanged from February. Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes grew three points to 28% of owners. Capital spending fell eight points as 58% of owners reported capital outlays. The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next 3 to 6 months declined three points to 26%.
Credit concerns remained historically low, as just 4% of owners reported that all their borrowing needs were not met, two points higher than February. Only 2% of business owners surveyed reported that financing was their top business problem. Just 13% of survey participants listed taxes as their top business problem, nine points below February and the lowest level since 1982.
Read the NFIB report.